Trends in food consumption and in the nutritional status of urban dwellers in Vietnam, over the last twenty years

Type Journal Article - Cahiers Agricultures
Title Trends in food consumption and in the nutritional status of urban dwellers in Vietnam, over the last twenty years
Volume 13
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2004
This paper analyses changes in food consumption and in the nutritional status of urban Vietnam. Before the economic renovation in Vietnam ( Doi moi), the nutritional status of the urban population was found to be seriously energy-deficient and comparable to that of the rural population, if not worse. The average dietary energy intake was 17% below recommended energy requirements. Since the end of the 80‘s, the transition to a market economy brought about many changes both in terms of living conditions and of food supply. Food production has tremendously increased\; private trading activities, e.g. food processing and street food, have been authorized\; incomes have increased and the average total food expenditure per capita in 1998 was estimated to be 1.6 times higher than in 1993. The comparison between surveys carried out before and after the Doi moi shows a diversification of the diet, mainly in urban area. Rice consumption has decreased whereas wheat product consumption has increased. The same is true of sugar, fat and oil, animal products, and processed soya. As to the consumption of fruits, it has increased since the end of the 80‘s in both urban and rural areas. Changes concern food purchase: the food market is free, self-consumption is reduced and supermarkets appear in the main cities. The main change is the rapid increase of outside home consumption in small restaurants and in the street, mainly in urban areas where it represents 20% of food expenditure in 1998. From a nutritional point of view, data analysis shows a global improvement of the situation but malnutrition still concerns 38% of children under 5 in rural areas and 24% in urban areas in 2002 compared to 60% and 41% respectively in 1989. The number of underweight women has strongly decreased and the percentage of underweight women in urban areas is now lower than in rural areas (20% versus 28%). Overweight and obesity were very rare in 1987 and concern 11% of women in 2000 but seem to be stabilised since 1997. There is a strong correlation between nutritional status and income level but the situation is not homogeneous in the country. All the results show the need for an improvement of survey methodologies in order to take into account outside home consumption which has become important in terms of food consumption, expenditures, and nutrition. More attention must be paid to street food in nutrition interventions. Overweight and obesity do not seem to be a serious problem now in urban Vietnam in comparison with other Asian countries. But as life styles are changing very fast, it is necessary to remain attentive as far as both food consumption and physical activities are concerned.

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